Introduction: How to "Fly" a Human Powered Hydrofoil - the "Aquaskipper"

Picture of How to "Fly" a Human Powered Hydrofoil - the "Aquaskipper"
The "Aquaskipper" is a human powered hydrofoil made by .
It's similar to the original Swedish Trampofoil, which is no longer available.
There's also one called the "Pumpabike" from South Africa.

They're also called "hull-less watercraft" and "flapping wing propulsion vessels".
You bounce up and down to make the wing fly and propel you.
If you stop you fall into the water and swim back to the dock.
It's completely ridiculous and works really well once you get the hang of it.

It's hard to do at first but that seems to make it even more fun.
Here's what learning looks like:

(After a few days we got a lot better)
Here's Kenny teaching Caglar the starting position.

An ipod formatted copy of the AquaSkipping video can be downloaded here.

Do you like this Instructable? Digg it!

Want to build your own? Here's How!

Step 1: Bounce Down and Up

Picture of Bounce Down and Up

Find a good place to launch. What you want is a dock a foot or so above the water.
You want water at least 6.5 feet deep according to the manual.
Decide which of your legs is stronger. That's your "pushing foot".
Stand on the side of the dock with the ball of that foot hanging over the edge of the dock.
That's so you'll be able to push off forcefully without your foot slipping.
Rest the rear crossbar of the Aquaskipper on the toes of that foot to keep it from dropping into the water.
Rock forward until the Aquaskipper's front foil is level on the water and step aboard with your other foot.
Lunge yourself and the aquaskipper forward, pushing with your back foot as hard as you possibly can.
Then start bouncing. These two diagrams from the Inventist website show what happens to the gizmo when you bounce. In the "down" part of the stroke the suspension is compressed and the back foil dives. In the 'up" part of the stroke the spring straightens out, the wing swoops up in the water and you glide forward. It's not automatic, you have to learn the skill.
It's hard to describe the motion. It helps to watch the videos many times and have a lot of friends around to make suggestions.

After a week or so of practice you'll be a skillful expert like the folks in the following video.
It shows Aquaskippers, Trampofoils, and other humanpowered hydrofoils at the European Sprint races in 2006:

Step 2: Hydrothopter Evolution, 1953 - the Present

Picture of Hydrothopter Evolution, 1953 - the Present

Demographic analysis shows that you're an impoverished 15 year old dreaming of ganging up ten of these with a chinese dragon hiding your friends inside. I know you're itching to go grind foils out of skis with a beltsander right now, but first take a look at what's been done before.

The rest of this instructable covers patents and additional details of human-powered Hydrothopters in order of newest to oldest.

This picture shows Alexander Sahlin riding one of his prototypes in the 90's.

Step 3: Aquaskipper Patent

Picture of Aquaskipper Patent

The pdf icon below will load Shane Chen's 2003 patent for the Aquaskipper.

If you're rushing off to beltsand some wooden foils for a crazy hydrofoil right now, be aware
the foil sections depicted in these diagrams do not resemble the sections of the actual device.

Also bear in mind that Shane's product is well made and it's cheaper to buy one than to spend lots of time building your own.

That said, here are some foil section candidates:
The Eppler E817 and "Ogive" sections are popular with Hydrofoil Society Members.
NACA 63412 and H105 are used by the Moth hydrofoil dinghy and others made by the same folks.

Step 4: Pumpabike Patent

Picture of Pumpabike Patent

The pdf icon at bottom will load Michael Puzey's patent for the "Pumpabike".
His website has a lot of good info, including owner's manual.

Step 5: Trampofoil Patent

Picture of Trampofoil Patent

Alexander Sahlin, inventor of the Trampofoil obtained Swedish design patent number 98-0088. Swedish Patent and Registreringsverket.

I haven't been able to find a copy, but if any of you do, please send it to me.

Alexander has gotten into some interesting new projects and no longer sells Trampofoils. The old Trampofoil website has gone offline, but you can still find it using the "Wayback Machine". That's where I got the following pictures of the Trampofoil.

His old website has the story of how he developed it with pix of the prototypes.

Step 6: Flying Fish 1983

Picture of Flying Fish 1983
The original pedal powered hull-less hydrofoil, the "Flying Fish":

The flying fish video is from Mark Drela's Decavitator website, now only available via the WaybackMachine: says:
"The first hydrofoil to fly was probably the "Flying Fish"; It was essentially a bicycle with foils instead of wheels. It had no floats at first, and was launched off a pier on rails. Their flight was
first published in 1984. If your PC can run video, the "Flying Fish"link below will show the essential components of all hydrofoil research. . .GETTING DUMPED !! That's Allan Abbott on the hydrofoil, and probably Alec Brooks doing the "rip cord". "

The photos are from Human Power, the Journal of the IHPVA Vol 3 no.2 winter 1984 in the lead article "The Flying Fish" written by Alec Brooks. The captions read: "Allan Abbott flies by at about 12mph" and "The Flying Fish, weight: 39lb, max speed: 14+ mph. Note surface follower on front strut."

Step 7: Wasserlaufer 1953

Picture of Wasserlaufer 1953
This was the first human powered hydrofoil. The name means "water strider", the waterbug that scampers on the surface of the water:

:" This is the first human powered hydrofoil ever. It was invented and designed by the bavarian engineer Julius Schuck. In 1953 it was presented the first time in the german Tagesschau (News) and the inventor himself rode his hydrofoil on the river Isar in Munich. In the 1978 movie Gizmo by Howard Stern the Wasserlaufer has a small part. This movie was reporting about crazy inventions of past days.
The Wasserlaufer used Flapping Wing Propulsion far before anybody else even thought about this way of propulsion. Below is the link to the News Video of the Wasserlaufer. C© Bilder, Videos Dr.-Ing. Wolf-Dieter Schuck"

Step 8: Pogofoil 1989

Picture of Pogofoil 1989
Parker McCready, the designer, has a page describing this craft which has a main wing "of a carbon/epoxy composite, is about 2 m in span, uses a NACA 4415 airfoil section".

Here's Mike Lampi's video of the Pogofoil in action:


leevonk (author)2007-02-03

how does that survival suit help keep you warm when it's so loose? It's water permiable like a normal neoprene wetsuite right? As far as I know tight fitting neoprene wetsuits work because some water is trapped in the neoprene and this water is warmed by your body. having a loose fitting wetsuite doesn't let the water get warmed by the body.. Let me know where I'm off

Kiteman (author)leevonk2007-02-04

That looks like a dry suit - no water gets in at all. It means you can ride your foil thing somewhere and arrive with your normal clothes on, dry, underneath.

leevonk (author)Kiteman2007-02-08

naw, it's made of neoprene (see his wetsuite repair instructable)

Wade Tarzia (author)leevonk2007-02-08

All survival suits are dry-suits. The zippers are well sealed, and the 'socks' and 'gloves' are sealed on. Water can get in by the face, so the hood is designed to fit tightly around the face. Usually the hood can be pulled up or folded over to cover the mouth a little.

leevonk (author)Wade Tarzia2007-02-08

the red suit pictured is a wetsuit, dry suits are not made of neoprene, they are made of waterproof plastic.

dan (author)leevonk2007-02-09

contrary to "lay" opinion, neoprene itself is completely waterproof. all leakage in a wetsuit is through the sewn seams between the individual panels of neoprene and around the edges where your arms and legs go, and through the zipper. if you visit your cold-weather surfing store, you should have no trouble purchasing a neoprene dry suit. it just costs more because of the seals.

andrew.mead.1253 (author)dan2016-10-16

But there are two types of Neoprene. Open cell Neoprene sheet is composed of intercommunicating "bubbles" of Neoprene allowing passage of water, air etc., Closed cell Neoprene sheet is composed of whole and independent Neoprene bubbles that do not permit the passage of water. It alone is impermeable and therefore-"waterproof".

leevonk (author)dan2007-02-13

thank you, finally an enlightening set of replies.

aphoric (author)leevonk2007-02-09

Actually dry suits may be made of nylon, or neoprene, or other materials. Here is just one quick link for info on neoprene drysuits.

royalestel (author)aphoric2007-02-09

Sorry to burst your collective bubbles, but REAL drysuits are made of thermocouple piezo-plastics. Check out this.

Kiteman (author)royalestel2007-02-11

Actually, I think you'll find the correct link is HERE.

royalestel (author)Kiteman2007-02-11

Aw, I was just adding to the comment chain . . .

Kiteman (author)royalestel2007-02-12

Me too. It just seemed seemed...

JayKay (author)leevonk2007-02-11

That is simpley not true. "Neoprene is a closed cell foam synthetic rubber, containing millions of tiny air bubbles. These form a buoyant and thermally insulating material that make a neoprene drysuit safer to wear than membrane dry suits. If torn or punctured, a neoprene suit still retains the insulation and buoyancy of the air bubbles when flooded." (Wikipedia<>)

kinawera (author)Kiteman2007-02-11

It is a regular wetsuit. You should have seen him BEFORE he lost the weight!

ShilpaAtwaal (author)2016-05-27

Really like this

sav83 made it! (author)2015-08-25

i have made one but cannot get it ti glide..think maybe the front surface feeling disc is a bit small . i followed the design for the wooden version..looking at the video I notice that there is a spring in the aquaskipper commercial version..the wooden one i built doesnt have a spring ?

dominichart88 (author)2012-01-17

Thanks for the catch. Misspelling corrected. Excellence is Always Appreciated!

mabey you should add more support to the sides and make it more secure and more flimsy on the uper part

alfamc2 (author)2011-10-22

i want one. (=

sandraellis (author)2011-10-05

Love it!

Sunnedaez (author)2011-10-02

Looks very hard to function almost like you need to be pulled by a jetski then that would be defeating the purpose of it being human powered.

petergovaere (author)2011-09-29

Looks like Bugs Bunny on waterskies :-)

Computothought (author)2011-06-30

I'll pass on this one...

fight4gipper1 (author)2011-04-29

Is there any way to make one of these??

sunny06 (author)fight4gipper12011-06-13

sunny06 (author)2011-06-13

Look at this - totally amazing:

A.C.E. (author)2007-05-25

so, if your just riding along and slow down to much and sink will the aquaskipper sink and can you get back on it in the water or do you have to go back to a dock?

snworks (author)A.C.E.2009-06-25

I don't know why you believe that, A Good Name. It's not possible to water start - you have to get back to dock or boat to launch. I have tried having a boat tow me up, but there is not enough control while underwater to do it.
The most fun is with a group of people taking turns, and you just circle around so you can step off on the dock or have a short swim. For learners we bring a line with a throwing weight on the end to haul them back in. Much less tiring than paddling back, so more time and energy for practice.

A good name (author)A.C.E.2008-04-22

I believe it would be possible to get up on the water, but easier on a dock/boat.

Yerboogieman (author)2009-06-06

That thing is just cool, i want to try that someday.

JendaZZ (author)2008-12-04

All you guys need to do is JUMP! Just look at yourself in the video... you (mostly the guy in black) are pushing down with your arms and bobbing up and down with your body - you are not really jumping at all. You need to jump up on the balls of your feet; your heels should come off the platform with every jump. I know you can do it!

agis68 (author)2008-04-09

I dont know if iam go make it ever, but i lought very mach with the first video....good job.

WonderWheeler (author)2007-02-10

Wow! But don't try to ride it in areas with a lot of kelp or long stringey algae or floating plants! Is that duct tape patching on his knees?

It's that 3M retro-reflector tape. So they can find the body quicker at night.

greggles14 (author)TimAnderson2008-01-07

ur cool cus ur name is anderson, so is mine!

Crash2108 (author)TimAnderson2007-04-27

more like 'corpse'.

parker101 (author)2007-07-19

they look so cool but i dont have the time to make it.
about how much does suplies cost???

Doveman (author)2007-06-13

Those Aquaskipper micbobbers are darn expensive! Almost $500?

dapaintballer331 (author)2007-05-15

I bought this March 2006, and you know the guy in the black dry suit? That was myself and 10 friends who tried it. I eventually got the hang of it rnough to go far out, but turning is a lot harder than it looks. Get it if you have a LOT of time.

power (author)2007-04-07

I saw this in a tv programme name Beyond Tommorow.this is very nice but it might be tricky .it means this is like a sport exercise machine for me.nice instructable

Punkguyta (author)2007-02-19

OH wow, I guess you learn things every day. I've never seen one of these but I'd be interested to see it in person.

Wade Tarzia (author)2007-02-05

Nice! Adds new meaning to the proverb, "sink or swim," and this device could update the proverb for the 21st century. Hey, this reminds me somewhy of the "mud sled," for which I hope you will do an instructable someday. Would love to see the modern equivalent as well as a note on its ethnographic history. Howabout a kite-powered mudsled? A wheeled, skated, pump-hydrofoiled, kite-powered mudsled might be the ultimate transport. It would at least win contests at Burning Man. ;-)

Wade Tarzia (author)Wade Tarzia2007-02-06

Addendum -- I just saw the video. I haven't laughed like that in months. I salute the never-say-die man-in-black.

girlybob (author)Wade Tarzia2007-02-18

ditto that - i was in need of a laugh and that was just stupidass enough to do it....sticktuitiveness!!!

Fubar (author)2007-02-17

Wow, that is very cool. Looks tiring, but cool. Seems like the trick to get started is to get the canard in the water first so it's riding level. Very cool guys. But now I know you Great Lakes guys are nuts. Try this in San Diego where the water is 40deg warmer!

leahculver (author)2007-02-14

Awesome! Looks tricky.

macrumpton (author)2007-02-11

The Aquaskipper is actually pretty close to a clone of a swedish invention called a trampofoil invented about a decade ago by these guys:
The aquaskipper has some improvements and costs about 1/4 as much as the original.
If someone could make these water launchable they would really take off in popularity.
A small electric motor and prop could also extend the range a lot. How about piezo electric material in the wing so it generates some of the power for the motor from the flexing of the wing.

Tamaresque (author)2007-02-09

Would it work better if there was more surface on the blades i.e. making them wider?

fretthefred (author)Tamaresque2007-02-11

there would more lift but a lot of drag though

About This Instructable




Bio: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output ... More »
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